Compassion for enemies? Why?

May 18, 2020   |   25 Comments

Audio-only version is here.
Meditation practice begins at 11:30.

Hello Open Heart Project,

I hope you are well and safe.

This hardly needs saying, but we seem to be a particularly intense point in the pandemic cycle. For many, the world is beginning to open back up. This may feel great, frightening, or both. There are a lot of theories and opinions out there about who is right, what things mean, who is to blame, and how it should all be handled. Voices are becoming louder and louder, at least that’s how it looks from right here in Massachusetts.

When voices get louder, people get angrier. Polarization intensifies. We feel further and further from each other. It can be quite difficult to remain compassionate towards people you think are, let’s just say it, a**holes. Before this week’s sit, I offer some thoughts on how to remain connected anyway. Spoiler alert: being compassionate is not the same thing as being “nice.”

Thoughts? Always love to hear them! This is a particularly spicy topic, so feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Please remember that the Open Heart Project is offering four live meditation gatherings per day, Monday-Friday. All the details are here. The 3rd sitting is in Spanish. Yoga Nidra has been introduced in certain sessions. Please feel free to share if you know others who would benefit from sitting in community. FREE.

With love, S

PS If you are looking for more teachings, support, and community, please consider joining the Open Heart Project sangha. Now is the time to double down on our commitment to sanity, courage, gentleness, and a deeper connection to our true priorities. Details are here.


$20 More information here


FREE for Open Heart Project Sangha members. Join the Sangha here.

“PANDEMIC SATURDAY” meditation retreat: May 23rd with Kevin Townley. Theme: Wisdom.
A Free Live Online One-Day Meditation Retreat: Sign up here. Open to all.

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  • Posted by:  April

    Ah, Susan, you’ve done it again! Thank you. If this pandemic time is a test, as you say, then you are the one who is helping me get through it. Your words always resound.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Sending love! Glad we’re practicing it all together. xo S

      • Posted by:  Char Brooks

        Hi Susan

        Thank you for sharing your wisdom so generously.

        I am interested in your perspective on what to do when you are doing something that you know ultimately hurts you and others.

        How do you stop doing it? I’m talking about using social media. In general, I feel worse and have a hard time not using it. If I stop using Engaging with others in this way, I go back to it again and again. I’ve had hard time getting off it . It’s similar to some issues I have with food.I really like to find enough compassion for myself to do what I know makes me feel better and is a better use of my time.

        Forgive the typos. I’m dictating this and it’s not allowing me to fix it. Thanks so much

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          Hi Char. It is weird how addicting these behaviors can be. When I get in a social media (or food) vortex, it’s usually because I’m searching for something, anything good. It’s a red flag, a warning sign that I am suffering.

          When it comes to such suffering, it would be great if we could just “make” ourselves do something else–but becoming aggressive toward ourselves rarely works. (That said, sometimes we just have to kick our own butts and STOP.) When I don’t know what else to do, what seems to help me is to wish I could stop suffering as I do, sure, but to add to that, “and I wish that all who suffer with exactly the same issues could find relief too.” Somehow, hoping for relief for yourself AND everyone else seems to lighten the load.

          Also, forgive, forgive, forgive yourself, as many times as it takes. I truly hope this is useful. Let me know. Much love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Char Brooks

    Hi Susan

    Thank you for this. It was really helpful. I wonder if you could talk about how do you social media effectively without getting triggered and specifically how to get off of it or not start using it in the first place.

    I’d love to hear your perspective in general about doing things which actually hurt me both in the long and the short run and being unable in the moment to stop. Or, if I am able to stop I am not able to stay away from things that hurt me. I seem to go back to them.

    It’s kind of like an addiction to circumstances That ultimately come back and bite me in the but.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom so generously

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      xoxox see above.

  • Posted by:  Melissa S

    Hi Susan
    Thank you so much for your meditation!

    Do you have any strategies for coping with heartbreak ;as I am currently going through a divorce and finding it very challenging ?

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Melissa, I am so sorry to hear this. Heartbreak from lost love is a pain like no other. I wrote a whole book about this, called “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.” Perhaps it might be useful? I will also make a video about this for next week.

      Wishing you well and sending assurance that you will not always feel as you do now. I promise.

      Much love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Claire

    I’m having trouble meditating because my attention span is about 2 minutes long. I used to be able to tell myself all kinds of things that kept me on the cushion, but they’re not working now. I’ve got ants in my pants!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I totally get it. There are two possible options. First, don’t meditate! If you are tormenting yourself, you could totally give yourself a break. Authorize a week or a month off, whatever you think makes sense. Don’t punish yourself.

      OR, you could do the opposite. You could try sitting for a little longer. Sometimes it takes a little while to settle down, especially when times are intense. In other words, if you’re trying to sit for 5 minutes, sit for 10. If you’re trying to sit for 10 minutes, sit for 15. And so on.

      But it’s also totally good to just take a break and, if you do, please implement an even more difficult practice: being gentle toward yourself. Seriously. That is a very important practice.

      With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Lacey

    Hi Susan!

    First time in your Open Heart Project mediation group, and it was lovely to hear content that’s specific to our ever evolving world.

    I’m learning to be more gentle with myself, focusing on how I feel instead of how much work I’m getting done (work-work and around the house tasks). I’m working to use this time to heal from wounds I’ve been shoving down over the past few months. It’s a bold endeavor, given how much we all have on our plates already. But in combination with ‘Wisdom of a Broken Heart” I’m hoping to resolve some of those inner conflicts and deepen my mediation practice along the way.

    Thank you for providing a source of connection during this time!

    Hope you are family are well.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Lacey, welcome and thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It is much appreciated. The practice of gentleness may be the highest practice of all… Wishing you well. Keep me posted! Warmly, S

  • Posted by:  Mary Alice Santoro

    Hi Susan,
    These videos have been so helpful over the past month or so. I was wondering if you could do a video on grief. I recently read an article that said many people are experiencing a ” collective grief ” over the loss of our sense of normalcy. I know I have been experiencing that without giving these emotions a name. How would a Buddhist deal with this loss of our sense of normalcy resulting in a collective grief ?
    Thank you !
    Mary Alice

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you for this excellent suggestion. Yes, I will do my best to offer something useful. Love, S

  • Posted by:  Anna Varney

    Staying connected and not losing the humanity of others are the two lessons of this time. Thank you!!!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are so welcome, thank you!! <3 S

  • Posted by:  Sue May

    How timely this talk is for me! Our next door neighbor just drove from Arkansas to Alaska (through many states + Canada) after 5 months away. Today (4th day home), they had three other families gathered hugging and schmoozing on their front lawn. So much for quarantining! I had told them from 20′ away that we were going to social distance, but were glad they made it safely. The outrage/anger/frustration hit me hard when I saw their flaunting precautions. My intellectual brain told me (reprovingly) that it was not my concern, that we are being cautious, etc., yet I still stewed for hours. Then I saw how aggressive I was being with myself, and could name the fear that underlay my response and could be a bit tender with that. And, yes, I have thrown caution to the wind myself in the past while under social pressure. And while I cannot condone their actions, I can see that we are not so different. And may my and their immune systems kick ass.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Sue, I would have been angry and STEWED too. But I’m glad you somehow found a way to work with it. You’re such a good practitioner. Much love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Mary Lou Basham

    Your integrity and honesty shine through and the demonstration is helpful to me. I keep thinking, if Susan can do it, so can I!

    Some topic ideas: a metta practice for these times, a talk about ‘pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”, or a talk about unknowns and uncertainty which is always true but we live as if all is very certain.

    The pandemic has presented personal and global uncertainty that most of us have not experienced or acknowledged

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thanks for the kind words and the suggested topics! Much appreciate. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Jenna Reiss

    this was incredible and the most perfect topic thank you! I love all the topics you bring to the table. I would love to see more videos on how to hold space for difficult conversations between loved ones. on Why it’s important to have love or compassion for people who have hurt you, or you believe are doing the wrong thing, and on being authentically you during these unprecedented times.
    Thank you again for everything always Susan!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Jenna, so glad this was timely. The topic of difficult conversations with loved ones is of great interest and I will try to come up with more to say. It is a mystery worth pondering! Sending love and great good wishes for your health–S.

  • Posted by:  jane

    Yes….. “I am you”.
    We are all here to get through this thing called life (almost a Prince quote). We are both perfect and imperfect….. and we can recognise frailty and failings in ourselves and each other. It doesn’t have to make us mortal enemies if we disagree.
    We fear the “other” sometimes. I think a lot of hatred and so on stems from fear.
    We’re in this thing called life together, on a beautiful planet. We’re both incredibly strong and terribly fragile. Let’s look at our shared humanity first and our “otherness” second.

    Thanks Susan,
    you rock,

    x o

  • Posted by:  jane

    ps Happy World Meditation Day!


  • Posted by:  Elizabeth Layton

    Thank you, Susan, for all you are doing for everyone listening. This is exactly what I needed to hear today.

    Blessings to You!

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